Clijsters Out Of Open, Closes The Chapter
Published September 01, 2012 12:00
NEW YORK, NY, USA - And so ends the illustrious career of Kim Clijsters, whose final match as a professional took place at the US Open on Saturday, a mixed doubles loss next to Bob Bryan. Her career was split into two parts - her first career, spanning 1997 to 2007, and her second career, spanning 2009 to 2012. And her second career as a mom may have been even more amazing.
Audiences around the world would see the magic that was her game very early in her career - show court match-ups with Steffi Graf and Serena Williams in her first two Grand Slams at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1999 meant everyone would see the big strokes, explosive movement and incredible spirit.
And it didn't take long for all of that to come together and majorly pay off. Within two years of her first WTA event she was already in the Top 5, and by the time she went into retirement in 2007 she had 34 WTA titles to her name, including her treasured first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2005. She also had four more Grand Slam final appearances and 19 weeks as the World No.1.
"My first career was 10 years. It was an intense ride. Emotionally hard at times, dealing with some of the big losses, but having my first Grand Slam win here was a dream come true. Maybe then I felt like I had achieved everything in tennis I wanted to achieve - I was No.1, I won a Slam, it was a long career."
Clijsters would spend over two years in retirement between May 2007 and August 2009, when - motivated by the 2012 Olympics - she made a sensational comeback to the WTA, and this time as a mom, having given birth to daughter Jada during her time out. She would win another seven WTA titles in her second career, including three Grand Slam titles - the 2009 US Open, the 2010 US Open and the 2011 Australian Open. She would also get back to No.1, albeit for just one week - but it did make her the first mother ever to rank No.1.
"I started practicing for the opening of the new roof at Wimbledon and gradually I started to feel like tennis was helping me get rid of emotions and have a focus. I was able to let a lot of energy out. After my dad passed away it was the perfect release for me, to deal with a lot of things, think about life, and once in a while just smack the ball as hard as you can to get a lot of the frustration out."
Why did Clijsters win three of her four Grand Slam titles at the US Open? "I got comfortable with the surface in New York. I always felt good playing in the States, whether it was the west coast, all the tournaments leading up to the US Open, or here in New York. I've always felt like when I stepped on a hardcourt I was the player I wanted to be. And movement-wise here in New York, the atmosphere, I was able to take a lot of the energy with me in my tennis.
"It's hard to describe why, but in some places you just feel really good."
And on becoming the first No.1 mom? "When I hear it, it is special, and I feel proud I won a Slam as a mother, just because I know how much work it took after I had Jada to get back physically, tennis-wise, and mentally to get back into the sport. On the other hand I never thought about it when I was playing."
Earlier this year Clijsters announced the US Open would be the last tournament of her career, and after her last losses in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, one of the most beloved WTA players of all time walked away a winner.
"It's been an incredible journey. A lot of dreams have come true for me because of tennis. As a little girl I got tennis racquets under the tree and outfits of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, and I wanted to wear them to bed, I was so excited. So for me to have been able to be a part of women's tennis, and on top of women's tennis for so many years... you don't think about it when you're in it.
"You're kind of on automatic pilot. You don't think about these things."